Life at Larkhill
We were all National Servicemen, I think all had been to grammar school and had a School Certificate. The eldest and tallest was Jim Dallaway and because he had been in his school’s (Dulwich College) Army Cadet Corps he was given the acting unpaid rank of Lance-Bombardier. So too was made Tim Tate-Smith. What is remarkable about our coming together was that the majority of us stayed together for virtually the whole of our army service. 1 It does also seem strange that through my later professional career in the surveying profession apart from Alan Rose, I never met any fellow surveyor who had done their National Service as a Surveyor RA or for that matter anybody who had served in Hong Kong. It makes me think we must have been a rather rare lot.
The huts which the Battery occupied were of WWI vintage and comprised the Battery offices, class rooms, our billets, and the ablutions. Getting to the wash houses first in the morning was worthwhile as hot water for washing and shaving was in short supply. They too were very bleak and cold in winter.
Our hut held, as I recall about 30, from ours and the previous squad, with iron bed frames aligned along each wall, two coal stoves, the odd table or two, a lino floor and cupboards above the beds. There was a radio. It was quite spartan. Bedding consisted of three “biscuits”, sheets, a pillow and three blankets. Beds had to be made in the army fashion, and stripped each morning with sheets and blankets folded at the head. Our kit had to be also laid out in the cupboards with the doors open and the room swept and cleaned for inspection before first parade at 8am. This was every day except Sunday. Fridays a more exact inspection took place and Thursday nights were spent preparing for these. Bumping (polishing) the lino floor until it gleamed, – the stoves, sweeping, dusting and cleaning. On our beds our kit had to be laid out, blancoed to perfection and with all brasses shining brightly, in the prescribed regimental manner.
This took a lot of work. Because if the hut and our kit was not up to the required standard we lost the privilege of ‘time off’, had to do it all again on Saturday and were confined to camp. We all pulled together in this without overt direction.
Reveille was at 6am, breakfast at 7am, first parade at 8am and we were kept at it until 5pm. If in camp lunch was at 12 noon, and evening meal at 6pm. NAAFI breaks were at 10am and 3 pm. As is customary the NAAFI was open in the evenings for drinks and food.
- Of these listed comrades, when demobbed, I was posted to a TA unit with Ian Styles, and attended a TA camp with Frank Beames. Tim Tate Smith was best man at my wedding ,and we remained in touch until he sadly died of cancer in 2010. I still correspond with Ian Styles. ↩